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Feeding Goats & Balancing the Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio

 Grain should be treated as if it were "goat candy." Too much grain can create metabolic disorders such as bloat, founder (laminitis), hypocalcemia and grain acidosis.

My adult Nigerians normally receive about 1/4 C. total daily of 16% pelleted, non-medicated goat feed divided into am & pm feedings. Pregnant and lactating does often receive a little more.This ration also contains ammonium chloride for urinary calculi prevention in male goats, and it will not hurt the females.  I currently feed Kalmbach 16% goat pellets, non-medicated (no coccidia preventative), but with ammonium chloride added.  It is a regional brand manufactured in Ohio. Purina's "Noble Goat" is a similar product, but I cannot find the non-medicated type locally.

If you want to feed your goats grain, barley and whole oats are a good option.  I avoid corn as it is high in phosphorus which can disrupt the calcium to phosphorus ratio.  (If you want to feed grains, I recommend adding a goat ration balancer to your mix.  These mineral balancers help keep the Ca:P ratio at a 2.0-2.5:1.  Manna Pro makes a Goat Balancer, and so does Fertrell.  Fertrell manufactures many organic products.  One balancer I like is their Premier Goat Balancer, available at

An Example of a Goat Grain Mix

1/2 barley
1/4 rolled oats

1/4 hay pellets or 1/4 16% non-medicated goat pellets.

You can always change the amounts to your own preferences or needs.  

Grain Mix Stir Ins: dried green split peas, Canadian yellow field peas, black oiled sunflower seeds (BOSS) and ground flax. BOSS also adds protein and essential fatty acids to the diet.  Do not overfeed or you might end up with overweight goats! Same goes for the flax.

Common Hays & Their Calcium- to- Phosphorus Ratios
 "All" means average of all stages- immature, prebloom, early bloom, fullbloom, etc. Ca:P ratio
 Alfalfa-All 5.3:1
 Orchard grass 1.5:1
 Clover, Red- All


 Timothy- All 2.2:1
 Brome grass- All 2.1:1
 Fescue, Tall 1.7:1
 Bluegrass, Kentucky- Mature 1.2:1


 Rye 1.7:1

 Grass- All

Personally, the majority of the hay I feed is timothy or a timothy mix.  It has more protein than grass hay alone, which is what I want.  The Ca:P ratio is good, but I'd like a little more calcium, especially for my does during late pregnancy through lactation.  So I complement the timothy by adding a feeding or two of alfalfa pellets.



The Nutritional Value of Hay
The following alphabetic chart provides nutritional data for common forages.
Variations occur from field to field. Remember that growing conditions, maturity,
and soil nutrients affect all mineral percents.
If you have javascript enabled in your browser, you can sort columns. Forages in
light green are grasses. Those in light orange are legumes. Legumes are higher in
calcium and have a calcium/phosphorus ratio with more calcium than is
Guinea Lynx'
All Hay Sun-cured
Values in % or Ratio
Alfalfa ---- All 90 16 1.28 0.24 0.3 5.3:1
Alfalfa - Mature 91 15.2 1.07 0.19 0.2 5.6:1
Alfalfa - Midbloom 91 17.1 1.27 0.22 0.32 5.8:1
Alfalfa - Prebloom 90 20.2 1.34 0.3 0.19 4.5:1
Barley 88 7.8 0.21 0.25 0.12 0.8:1
Bermudagrass 91 9.2 0.43 0.16 0.16 2.7:1
Bluegrass, Kentucky -- All 89 9.1 0.4 0.27 0.19 1.5:1
Bluegrass, Kentucky -
89 5.6 0.24 0.2 0.1 1.2:1Bromegrass ---- All 91 8.7 0.32 0.15 0.09 2.1:1
Bromegrass - Mature 92 6.1 0.4 0.09 0.08 4.4:1
Bromegrass - Prebloom 88 9.2 0.28 0.33 0.08 0.8:1
Clover, Red ---- All 88 13 1.22 0.22 0.34 5.5:1
Clover, Red - Immature 87 18.7 1.35 0.32 0.34 4.2:1
Clover, Red - Mature 91 11.8 1.07 0.19 0.32 5.6:1
Clover, White 90 16.9 1.71 0.29 UNKN 5.9:1
Fescue, Meadow 88 8.2 0.33 0.25 1.61 1.3:1
Fescue, Tall 89 7.2 0.35 0.21 2.12 1.7:1
Grass - Immature 87 14.5 UNKN UNKN UNKN UNKN
Grass ---- All 89 8 0.44 0.18 0.2 2.4:1



So, Just What is the 2:1 Calcium -to- Phosphorus Ratio?

Simply put, it means feeding foods that provide two parts of calcium to one part phosphorus.  These two minerals also rely upon each other for absorption and utilization by the goat's body. Moreover, the 2:1 ratio is a minimum calcium requirement for a goat.  The ratio can go as high as 5:1, but no higher. 

 Here's an easy example to illustrate the point.  Measure by weight 1/2 C. pelleted grain.  Take that weight, and measure out twice that weight in alfalfa pellets.  There you have it.  We measure by weight and not volume.  This is because when measuring them pound for pound we can see there's a difference in the volume of grain and alfalfa pellets.

By keeping a Ca:P ratio intact, you can ward off some serious metabolic disorders and illnesses.  For example, urinary calculi in male goats is caused by an inverted Ca:P ratio.  Hypocalcemia (too little calcium) in pregnant and lactating does is created by an imbalance in the ratio as well.  Then secondary issues arise when the doe instinctively tries to restore the balance by refusing to eat her grain, which is high in phosphorus as all grains are.  Pretty soon, as the goat weakens, she will go off her hay. She then begins to live on her fat reserves. That's when ketosis sets in. Sue Reith explains ketosis far better than I can.  For more information, please follow this link: